U.S. presidential election, 1964: Wikis


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1960 United States 1968
United States presidential election, 1964
November 3, 1964
37 Lyndon Johnson 3x4.jpg BarryGoldwater.jpg
Nominee Lyndon B. Johnson Barry Goldwater
Party Democratic Republican
Home state Texas Arizona
Running mate Hubert Humphrey William E. Miller
Electoral vote 486 52
States carried 44 + DC 6
Popular vote 43,127,041 27,175,754
Percentage 61.1% 38.5%
Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Goldwater/Miller, Blue denotes those won by Johnson/Humphrey. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

Previous President
Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon B. Johnson

The United States presidential election of 1964 was the sixth-most lopsided presidential election in the history of the United States behind the elections of 1936, 1984, 1972, 1864, and 1980 (in terms of electoral votes; in terms of popular vote, it was the fifth-most). President Lyndon B. Johnson had come to office less than a year earlier following the assassination of his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, and Johnson had successfully associated himself with Kennedy's popularity. Johnson also successfully painted his opponent, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, as a right-wing legislator who wanted to abolish the social welfare programs created in the 1930s (such as Social Security). LBJ advocated more such programs, and after 1965, instituted three: Medicare, Medicaid, and the War on Poverty. With these factors working for him, Johnson easily won the Presidency, carrying 44 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. As of 2009, Johnson's 22.6 percentage point-margin of victory in the popular vote is the fifth-largest such margin in Presidential election history (after the margins of the 1920 election, 1924 election, 1936 election, and 1972 election). Johnson won 61.1% of the national popular vote, which remains the highest popular-vote percentage won by a U.S.presidential candidate since 1820. The election is also remembered due to Goldwater's status as a pioneer in the modern conservative movement.

No post-1964 Democratic candidate has managed to better LBJ's 1964 electoral result.


Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Supporters were shocked and saddened by the loss of the charismatic Kennedy, while opposition candidates were put in the awkward position of running against the policies of a slain president.

During the following period of mourning, Republican leaders called for a political moratorium, so as not to appear disrespectful. As such, little politicking was done by the candidates of either major party until January 1964, when the primary season officially began. At the time, most political pundits saw Kennedy's assassination as leaving the nation politically unsettled.



Democratic Party

Democratic candidates

Candidates gallery

Favorite sons:


The nomination of Johnson was assured, but he wanted to control the convention and avoid a public fight over civil rights. Nonetheless, Johnson faced challenges from two sides over civil rights issues over the course of the nomination season.

The segregationist Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, ran in a number of northern primaries against Johnson, and did surprisingly well in primaries in Maryland, Indiana, and Wisconsin against favorite son candidates who were stalking horses for Johnson. All favorite-sons, however, won their primaries. In California Yorty lost to Brown.

Results by state

Total popular vote

At the national convention the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) claimed the seats for delegates for Mississippi, not on the grounds of the Party rules, but because the official Mississippi delegation had been elected by a Jim Crow primary. The party's liberal leaders supported an even division of the seats between the two delegations; Johnson was concerned that, while the regular Democrats of Mississippi would probably vote for Goldwater anyway, rejecting them would lose him the South. Eventually, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Reuther and the black civil rights leaders including Roy Wilkins, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bayard Rustin worked out a compromise: the MFDP took two seats; the regular Mississippi delegation was required to pledge to support the party ticket; and no future Democratic convention would accept a delegation chosen by a discriminatory poll. Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., the MFDP's lawyer, initially refused this deal, but they eventually took their seats. Many white delegates from Mississippi and Alabama refused to sign any pledge, and left the convention; and many young civil rights workers were offended by any compromise.[1] Johnson carried the South as a whole in the election, but lost Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina.

Johnson also faced trouble from Robert F. Kennedy, President Kennedy's younger brother and the U.S. Attorney General. Kennedy and Johnson had personally disliked one another since the 1960 Democratic National Convention, when Robert Kennedy had tried to prevent Johnson from becoming his brother's running mate, a move that deeply embittered both men. In early 1964, despite his personal animosity for the president, Kennedy had tried to force Johnson to accept him as his running mate. Johnson eliminated this threat by announcing that none of his cabinet members would be considered for second place on the Democratic ticket. Johnson also became concerned that Kennedy might use his scheduled speech at the 1964 Democratic Convention to create a groundswell of emotion among the delegates to make him Johnson's running mate; he prevented this by deliberately scheduling Kennedy's speech on the last day of the convention, after his running mate had already been chosen. Shortly after the 1964 Democratic Convention, Kennedy decided to leave Johnson's cabinet and run for the U.S. Senate in New York; he won the general election in November. Johnson chose Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, a liberal and civil rights activist, as his running mate. (It was noted that the need for a vice-presidential candidate, in the aftermath of John Kennedy's assassination, provided some suspense for the convention.)

Republican Party

Republican candidates

Candidates gallery

The primaries

Republican primaries results

The Republican Party was badly divided in 1964 between its conservative and moderate-liberal factions. Former Vice-President Richard Nixon, who had been beaten by Kennedy in the extremely close 1960 presidential election, decided not to run. Nixon, a moderate with ties to both wings of the GOP, had been able to unite the factions in 1960; in his absence the way was clear for the two factions to engage in an all-out political civil war for the nomination. Barry Goldwater, a Senator from Arizona, was the champion of the conservatives. The conservatives had historically been based in the American Midwest, but beginning in the 1950s the conservatives had been gaining in power in the South and West. The conservatives favored a low-tax, small federal government which supported individual rights and business interests and opposed social welfare programs. The conservatives also resented the dominance of the GOP's moderate wing, which was based in the Northeastern United States. Since 1940, the Eastern moderates had successfully defeated conservative presidential candidates at the GOP's national conventions. The conservatives believed the Eastern moderates were little different from liberal Democrats in their philosophy and approach to government. Goldwater's chief opponent for the Republican nomination was Nelson Rockefeller, the Governor of New York and the longtime leader of the GOP's liberal-moderate faction.

Initially, Rockefeller was considered the front-runner, ahead of Goldwater. However, in 1963, two years after Rockefeller's divorce from his first wife, he married Margarita "Happy" Murphy, a woman 15 years younger who had just divorced her husband and surrendered her four children to his custody.[2] The fact that Murphy had suddenly divorced her husband before marrying Rockefeller led to rumors that Rockefeller had been having an extramarital affair with her. This angered many social conservatives and female voters within the GOP, many of whom whispered that Rockefeller was a "wife stealer".[2] After his remarriage, Rockefeller's lead among Republicans lost 20 points overnight.[2] Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut, the father of President George H.W. Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush, was among Rockefeller's critics on this issue: "Have we come to the point in our life as a nation where the governor of a great state- one who perhaps aspires to the nomination for president of the United States- can desert a good wife, mother of his grown children, divorce her, then persuade a young mother of four youngsters to abandon her husband and their four children and marry the governor?"[2]

In the first primary, in New Hampshire, both Rockefeller and Goldwater were considered to be the favorites, but the voters instead gave a surprising victory to the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Nixon's running mate in 1960 and a former Massachusetts senator. Lodge was a write-in candidate. Lodge went on to win the Massachusetts and New Jersey primaries before finally deciding that he didn't want the Republican nomination, he then withdrew his candidacy.

Despite his defeat in New Hampshire, Goldwater pressed on, winning the Illinois, Texas, and Indiana primaries with little opposition, and Nebraska's primary after a stiff challenge from a draft-Nixon movement. Goldwater also won a number of state caucuses and gathered even more delegates. Meanwhile, Nelson Rockefeller won the West Virginia and Oregon primaries against Goldwater, and William Scranton won in his home state of Pennsylvania. Both Rockefeller and Scranton also won several state caucuses, mostly in the Northeast.

The final showdown between Goldwater and Rockefeller was in the California primary. In spite of the previous accusations regarding his marriage, Rockefeller led Goldwater in most opinion polls in California, and he appeared headed for victory when his new wife gave birth to a son, Nelson Rockefeller, Jr., three days before the primary.[2] His son's birth brought the issue of adultery front and center, and Rockefeller suddenly lost ground in the polls.[2] Goldwater won the primary by a narrow 51% - 49% margin, thus eliminating Rockefeller as a serious contender and all but clinching the nomination. With Rockefeller's elimination, the party's moderates and liberals turned to William Scranton, the Governor of Pennsylvania, in the hopes that he could stop Goldwater. However, as the Republican Convention began Goldwater was seen as the heavy favorite to win the nomination.

Total popular vote

Republican Convention

The 1964 Republican National Convention at Daly City, California's Cow Palace arena was one of the most bitter on record, as the party's moderates and conservatives openly expressed their contempt for each other. Rockefeller was loudly booed when he came to the podium for his speech; in his speech he roundly criticized the party's conservatives, which led many conservatives in the galleries to yell and scream at him. A group of moderates tried to rally behind Scranton to stop Goldwater, but Goldwater's forces easily brushed his challenge aside, and Goldwater was nominated on the first ballot. The presidential tally was as follows:

The vice-presidential nomination went to little-known Republican Party Chairman William E. Miller, a Congressman from upstate New York. Goldwater stated that he chose Miller simply because "he drives [President] Johnson nuts".

In accepting his nomination, Goldwater uttered his most famous phrase: "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." For many GOP moderates, Goldwater's speech was seen as a deliberate insult, and many of these moderates would defect to the Democrats in the fall election.

General election


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 turned the Democratic Solid South into a Republican bastion.

Although Goldwater had been successful in rallying conservatives, he was unable to broaden his base of support for the general election. Shortly before the Republican Convention, he had alienated most moderate Republicans[citation needed] by his vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964,[3] which Johnson championed and signed into law. The Johnson camp used this to paint Goldwater as a racist. Goldwater argued that it was a matter for the individual states rather than federal legislation. Goldwater was famous for speaking "off-the-cuff" at times, and many of his former statements were given wide publicity by the Democrats. In the early 1960s, Goldwater had called the Eisenhower administration "a dime store New Deal", and the former president never fully forgave him, nor offered him his full support in the election. In December 1961, he told a news conference that "sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea", a remark which indicated his dislike of the liberal economic and social policies that were often associated with that part of the nation. That comment came back to haunt him, in the form of a Johnson television commercial, as did remarks about making Social Security voluntary and selling the Tennessee Valley Authority. In his most famous verbal gaffe, Goldwater once joked that the U.S. military should "lob one (a nuclear bomb) into the men's room of the Kremlin" in the Soviet Union. Goldwater was also hurt by the refusal of many prominent moderate Republicans to support him. Governors Nelson Rockefeller of New York and George Romney of Michigan refused to endorse Goldwater and did not campaign for him. On the other hand, former Vice-President Richard Nixon and Governor Scranton of Pennsylvania loyally supported the GOP ticket and campaigned for Goldwater, although Nixon did not entirely agree with Goldwater's political stances and said that it would "be a tragedy" if Goldwater's platform were not "challenged and repudiated" by the Republicans.[4] The New York Herald-Tribune, a voice for eastern Republicans (and a target for Goldwater activists during the primaries), supported Johnson in the general election. Some moderates even formed a "Republicans for Johnson" organization, although most prominent GOP politicians avoided being associated with it.

Eisenhower's strong backing could have been an asset to the Goldwater campaign, but instead its absence was clearly noticed. When questioned about the presidential capabilities of the former President's younger brother, university administrator Milton S. Eisenhower, in July 1964, Goldwater replied, "One Eisenhower in a generation is enough." However, Eisenhower did not openly repudiate Goldwater, and he did make one television commercial for Goldwater's campaign.[5] A prominent Hollywood celebrity who vigorously supported Goldwater was Ronald Reagan. Reagan gave a well-received televised speech supporting Goldwater; it was so popular that Goldwater's advisors had it played on local television stations around the nation. Many historians consider this speech to mark the beginning of Reagan's transformation from an actor to a political leader. In 1966, Reagan would be elected Governor of California in a landslide.

Johnson positioned himself as a moderate, and succeeded in portraying Goldwater as an extremist. Goldwater's warnings about the overreach of government seemed hyperbolic to 1964 voters, with only 30% of them agreeing at that point that government was too powerful.[6] The numbers would increase in the intervening years, culminating in Reagan's election.[6] Goldwater had a habit of making blunt statements about war, nuclear weapons, and economics that could be turned against him. Most famously, the Johnson campaign broadcast a television commercial on September 7 dubbed the "Daisy Girl" ad, which featured a little girl picking petals from a daisy in a field, counting the petals, which then segues into a launch countdown and a nuclear explosion. The ads were in response to Goldwater's advocacy of "tactical" nuclear weapons use in Vietnam[citation needed]. Another Johnson ad, "Confessions of a Republican", tied Goldwater to the Ku Klux Klan. Voters increasingly viewed Goldwater as a right wing fringe candidate — his slogan "In your heart, you know he's right" was successfully parodied by the Johnson campaign into "In your guts, you know he's nuts", or "In your heart, you know he might" (as in push the nuclear button), or even "In your heart, he's too far right" (some cynics wore buttons saying "Even Johnson is better than Goldwater!")

Election results by county.     Lyndon B. Johnson      Barry M. Goldwater      Unpledged electors

The Johnson campaign's greatest concern may have been voter complacency leading to low turnout in key states. To counter this, all of Johnson's broadcast ads concluded with the line: "Vote for President Johnson on November 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home." The Democratic campaign used two other slogans, "All the way with LBJ" and "LBJ for the USA".

The election campaign was disrupted for a week by the death of former president Herbert Hoover on October 20, 1964, because it was considered disrespectful to be campaigning during a time of mourning. Hoover died of natural causes. He was President of the United States from 1929 to 1933.


The election was held on November 3, 1964. Johnson crushed Goldwater in the general election, winning over 61 percent of the popular vote, the largest percentage since the popular vote first became widespread in 1824. In the end, Goldwater won only his native state of Arizona and five Deep South states that had been increasingly alienated by Democratic civil rights policies. Because states like Mississippi and Alabama had not voted Republican in any presidential election since Reconstruction, and Georgia had never voted Republican even during Reconstruction, this was a major transition point for the South, and an important step in the process by which the Democrats' former "Solid South" became a Republican bastion. Nonetheless, Johnson still managed to eke out a bare popular majority of 51%–49% (6.307 to 5.993 million) in the eleven former Confederate states.

The Johnson landslide defeated many conservative Republican congressmen, giving him a majority that could overcome the conservative coalition.

This is the first election to have participation of the District of Columbia under the 23rd Amendment to the US Constitution.

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote Electoral
Running mate Running mate's
home state
Running mate's
electoral vote
Count Pct
Lyndon Baines Johnson Democratic Texas 43,127,041 61.1% 486 Hubert Horatio Humphrey Minnesota 486
Barry Morris Goldwater Republican Arizona 27,175,754 38.5% 52 William Edward Miller New York 52
Eric Hass Socialist Labor New York 45,189 0.0% 0 Henning A. Blomen Massachusetts 0
Clifton DeBerry Socialist Workers Illinois 32,706 0.0% 0 Ed Shaw Michigan 0
Earle Harold Munn Prohibition Michigan 23,267 0.0% 0 Mark Shaw Michigan 0
John Kasper States' Rights New York 6,953 0.0% 0 Jesse Stoner Georgia 0
Joseph B. Lightburn Constitution West Virginia 5,061 0.0% 0 Theodore Billings 0
(unpledged electors) Democratic (n/a) 210,732 0.3% 0 (n/a) (n/a) 0
Other 125,757 0.2% Other
Total 70,651,298 100% 538 538
Needed to win 270 270

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. 1964 Presidential Election Results. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (August 7, 2005).

Source (Electoral Vote): Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (August 7, 2005).

Close states

  1. Arizona, 0.99%
  2. Idaho, 1.83%
  3. Florida, 2.30%

Close states where the margin of victory was over 5%, but less than 10%

  1. Nebraska, 5.22%
  2. Virginia, 7.36%
  3. Georgia, 8.25%
  4. Kansas, 9.03%
  5. Utah, 9.72%


While losing quite badly in the 1964 election, some political pundits and historians believe Goldwater laid the foundation for the conservative revolution to follow. Ronald Reagan's speech on Goldwater's behalf, grassroots organization, and the conservative takeover (although temporary in the 60's) of the Republican party would all help to bring about the "Reagan Revolution" of the 1980s. Indeed, many[citation needed] of today's leading politicians first entered politics to work for Goldwater, including Hillary Clinton.

Johnson went from his victory in the 1964 election to launch the Great Society program at home, signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and starting the War on Poverty. He also escalated the Vietnam War, which eroded his popularity. By 1968, Johnson's popularity had declined and the Democrats became so split over his candidacy that he withdrew as a candidate. Moreover, his support of civil rights for African-Americans helped split union members and Southerners away from Franklin Roosevelt's Democratic New Deal Coalition, which would later lead to the phenomenon of the "Reagan Democrat". Of the eleven presidential elections that followed, Democrats would win only four times. Columnist George Will had this to say about the lasting effects of the 1964 election: "It took 16 years to count the votes, and Goldwater won."

The election also shifted the African-American voting electorate away from the Republican Party due to Goldwater's opposition to federal civil rights laws.[citation needed] Since the 1964 election, Democratic presidential candidates have almost consistently won more than 90% of the African-American vote in each presidential election.


  • The 1964 election was the only time in American history where all of the outer southern states (Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia) went for one political party and all of the deep southern states (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina) went for the other political party.
  • Significantly, the 1964 election was the first time since Reconstruction in the 1870s that a Republican presidential candidate carried the states of Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina. It was the first time Georgia ever voted Republican. In future elections these states, along with the rest of the South, would vote increasingly Republican.
  • The 1964 election marked the first time in history that the Democratic ticket won the electoral votes of the state of Vermont, and the first time that the Democratic ticket won Maine with an absolute majority of votes cast, instead of a plurality.
  • This was the first election in which the District of Columbia participated in the electoral college. There were 538 electors, compared to 537 in 1960; included were 3 electors for the District of Columbia, but this was offset by the U.S. House of Representatives membership going from 437 back to 435 when it was reapportioned in accordance with the 1960 census.
  • 1964 would be the last time in which any candidate from the two major parties would receive at least 80% of the popular vote in a statewide contest (excluding the District of Columbia). Johnson took 81% of the Rhode Island popular vote, and Goldwater took 87% of the Mississippi popular vote.
  • Despite the assassination of John F. Kennedy being a catalyst for the Democratic landslide in 1964, Robert Kennedy received only 54% of the popular vote in his US Senate campaign in New York. Meanwhile, Lyndon Johnson received 69% of the popular vote in his Presidential campaign in New York.
  • Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey both comfortably won their home states (Texas and Minnesota, respectively). However, Goldwater barely won his home state of Arizona; he won it by less than 1 percentage point, or around 5000 votes. William E. Miller lost his home state of New York by 37 percentage points.
  • The 1964 election was the last time to date that any of the following states: Alaska, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska (although Barack Obama won one of their electoral votes in 2008), North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming voted for a Democratic candidate. It is also the only time in Alaskan history that the state voted Democratic. The Democratic ticket would not win Virginia or Indiana again until Barack Obama won both in 2008. Also, this is the last time that Oregon or Iowa would vote Democratic until 1988. Finally, this was the last time until 1992 that any of the following states voted for a Democrat: California (see below), Colorado, Illinois, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Vermont.
  • The 1964 election was the only election between 1948 and 1992 in which the Democratic presidential candidate carried the state of California. Many credit the Democrats' failure in California to the fact that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were on the presidential ticket seven times in the ten elections between those years.
  • 1964 was the last time a Democratic presidential candidate received a majority (or plurality) of white voters.[7]

See also



  • George H. Gallup (ed.), ed (1972). The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion, 1935–1971. 3 vols.. Random House. 
  • Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle (ed.), ed (1990). The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930–1980. 
  • Arthur Meier Schlesinger, Jr. (ed.), ed (2001). History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2000. 
  • Barone, Michael; Grant Ujifusa (1967). The Almanac of American Politics 1966: The Senators, the Representatives and the Governors: Their Records and Election Results, Their States and Districts. 
  • Brennan, Mary C. (1995). Turning Right in the Sixties: The Conservative Capture of the G. O. P.. University of North Carolina Press. 
  • Dallek, Robert (2004). Lyndon B. Johnson: Portrait of a President. 
  • Donaldson, Gary (2003). Liberalism's Last Hurrah: The Presidential Campaign of 1964. M. E. Sharpe. ISBN 0-7656-1119-8. 
  • Rowland Evans and Robert Novak; Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power (1966) online
  • Goldberg, Robert Alan (1995). Barry Goldwater. 
  • Hamby, Alonzo (1992). Liberalism and Its Challengers: From F.D.R. to Bush. 
  • Hodgson, Godfrey (1996). The World Turned Right Side Up: A History of the Conservative Ascendancy in America. Houghton Mifflin Company. 
  • Jensen, Richard (1983). Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854–1983. 
  • Kolkey, Jonathan Martin (1983). The New Right, 1960–1968: With Epilogue, 1969–1980. 
  • Ladd, Everett Carll, Jr.; Charles D. Hadley (1978). Transformations of the American Party System: Political Coalitions from the New Deal to the 1970s. 2nd ed.. 
  • Lesher, Stephan (1995). George Wallace. 
  • Matthews, Jeffrey J. (1997). "To Defeat a Maverick: The Goldwater Candidacy Revisited, 1963–1964". Presidential Studies Quarterly 27 (4): 662+. 
  • McGirr, Lisa (2002). Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right. 
  • Perlstein, Rick (2002). Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. 
  • Rae, Nicol C. (1994). Southern Democrats. Oxford University Press. 
  • Sundquist, James L. (1983). Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States. 
  • White, Theodore (1965). The Making of the President: 1964. 
  • Burdick, Eugene (1964). The 480.  - a political fiction novel around the Republican campaign.


  1. ^ Unger and Unger; LBJ; a Life (1999) pp. 325-6; Dallek Flawed Giant, p. 164; Evans and Novak (1966) 451-56 claim that the MFDP fell under the influence of "black radicals" and rejected their seats.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. pp. 58–59. ISBN 0465041957. 
  3. ^ Civil Rights Act of 1964
  4. ^ Black, Conrad (2007), p. 464.
  5. ^ http://livingroomcandidate.movingimage.us/election/index.php?nav_action=election&nav_subaction=R&campaign_id=168
  6. ^ a b Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 283. ISBN 0465041957. 
  7. ^ Exit polls since 1972



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